Queen Creek Town Council to discuss budget at June 1 meeting

Linda Blazek of Queen Creek 4-H, right, seated at the table facing forward, was among the representatives from area nonprofits that receive funding from the town of Queen Creek to present their case for funding for fiscal year 2016-17 to the Queen Creek Budget Committee April 13. On behalf of the local 4-H, Ms. Blazek asked for $8,210 in in-kind services for space for nine monthly meetings and use of Horseshoe Park and Equestrian Centre, 20464 E. Riggs Road in Queen Creek, for two events. The committee — facing Ms. Blazek, from left, Councilman Craig Barnes, Vice Mayor Dawn Oliphant and Councilman Robin Benning, recommended the approval of $6,920 in funding. Advising the committee were town staff members, from left, Town Manager John Kross, Chief Financial Officer Scott McCarty and Senior Financial Services Analyst Gloria Moore. (Independent Newspapers/Wendy Miller)

Linda Blazek of Queen Creek 4-H, right, seated at the table facing forward, was among the representatives from area nonprofits that receive funding from the town of Queen Creek to present their case for funding for fiscal year 2016-17 to the Queen Creek Budget Committee April 13. On behalf of the local 4-H, Ms. Blazek asked for $8,210 in in-kind services for space for nine monthly meetings and use of Horseshoe Park and Equestrian Centre, 20464 E. Riggs Road in Queen Creek, for two events. The committee — facing Ms. Blazek, from left, Councilman Craig Barnes, Vice Mayor Dawn Oliphant and Councilman Robin Benning, recommended the approval of $6,920 in funding. Advising the committee were town staff members, from left, Town Manager John Kross, Chief Financial Officer Scott McCarty and Senior Financial Services Analyst Gloria Moore. (Independent Newspapers/Wendy Miller)

 

•The Queen Creek Town Council will vote on the tentative budget after a final action on June 1 during which the public may speak, and vote on the final budget after a public hearing on June 15. Town council meetings start at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers, 22350 S. Ellsworth Road. Public hearings are not held before 7 p.m. To view the agenda, visit www.queencreek.org, click on the Calendar and then click on the June 1 council meeting.
The town of Queen Creek is taking a fiscally conservative approach to its 2016-17 budget to ensure it has enough money to serve its residents while providing an adequate contingency fund to dip into should an economic emergency arise.

“We’ve prioritized the needs of the community,” Mayor Gail Barney said during an interview, adding that the two top expenditures in 2016-17 will be for roads and public safety.

“We need to keep our police force at a strong level. We reduced our police coverage by one beat during the recession,” he said, adding that law enforcement services — which the town contracts from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office — is back to five beats.

Members of the town council do not want a repeat of fiscal year 2010-11, when due to the economic downturn, the town had an operating budget of $17.9 million and officials announced a five-year strategy to save about $4.7 million the next fiscal year including the elimination of 42 full- and part-time positions, as reported (“When the bubble bursts — Layoffs, reduction in services on tap for Fy 2011-12”) in the May 4, 2011, issue of the Queen Creek Independent.

“Three years ago we were still coming out of the recession. We don’t want to assume the recession is over and start building things and then not have the revenue to pay for what we’ve planned,” Councilman Robin Benning said during a phone interview. “We’re trying to be very careful to not overspend but to use the money we do have wisely to provide the services our residents demand.”

On June 1, the council is expected to vote on the town’s $184.1 million tentative budget for fiscal year 2016-17 after a final action during which the public may speak. It will vote on the final budget after a public hearing on June 15, according to Constance Halonen-Wilson, the town’s public information officer. The new budget will take effect on July 1.

Town council meetings start at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers, 22350 S. Ellsworth Road. Public hearings are not held before 7 p.m. To view the agenda and council packet — which includes a copy of the proposed budget — visit www.queencreek.org, click on the Calendar and then click on the June 1 council meeting.

The proposed budget is $30 million more than 2015-16. Most of the increase is due to new roads and a new park, according to a staff report in the council packet for the June 1 meeting. The proposed budget allocates $29 million for new roads. The money is part of a $145 million, 10-year roads program, Town Manager John Kross said during an interview.

“We are two years into the 10-year plan,” he said.

The proposed budget also allocates $20 million for the 78-acre West Park, which is part of the town’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan. West Park is bounded by Queen Creek Road to the north, Ocotillo Road to the south, Sossaman Road to the west and Hawes Road to the east, according to the town’s website.

The project would be paid for using $6 million from the town’s existing impact fees; the remaining $14 million would be financed, Mr. Kross said.

“Impact fees will build 30 acres and the remaining 48 acres will be paid for from the operating budget and the water fund (if there is a lake). The current West Park concept plan includes a lake and one of our current thoughts is to move that closer to the wash and be able to use the town’s allotment of designated reclaimed water,” Mr. Kross said.

Impact fees are one-time payments made to the town at the time of building permit issuance that are also referred to as development fees, according to the town’s website. Development fees are used to pay for capital costs associated with new growth and are assessed on both residential and non-residential development.

Councilwoman Emilena Turley said she would prefer to not have to finance funding for projects such as West Park.

“Queen Creek is the place to be and I’m so proud of so much of what we do. My concern is that if we prioritized more carefully, we could pay for critical items like roads without so much debt and resulting property taxes,” she said in an e-mailed response to questions.

The proposed budget also includes a $500,000 increase in the town’s 2015-16 $5.4 million contract with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, for a total $5.906 million. The increase includes $142,000 for base pay and benefits; $187,000 in overtime costs; $201,000 for a school resource officer, including a one-time $73,000 cost for a vehicle; and $15,000 for items such as animal control and professional development, according to the council packet.

Mayor Barney said the town has considered the creation of a municipal police department but he feels its contract with MCSO provides the town with “a lot of bang for the buck.”

The town has allocated about $98 million over the next 10 years to add water and wastewater infrastructure and $58 million in a contingency fund for capital improvement projects. The latter is broken down as $13 million for projects under contract, $40 million for approved project budgets not yet under contract and $5 million for unanticipated expenses, grant awards and emergencies, according to the council packet.

One unexpected cost in 2015-16 was repairing wastewater line defects detected during the sewer line extension at American Leadership Academy Ironwood campus at 850 W. Combs Road, Mr. Kross said.

The town is benefiting from its growing population. In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau listed the town’s population as 26,361. The mid-decade special census was conducted because estimates indicated that Queen Creek had grown 20 percent since 2010, according to the town’s website. The updated population count for the town of Queen Creek as of Oct. 1, 2015, is 33,649, an approximate 27 percent increase.

As a result of the updated population count, the town will receive an additional $1.8 million in state-shared revenues, which include sales tax, income tax, gas tax and vehicle license tax, according to the council packet.

Councilman Craig Barnes called the proposed budget “very sound” and “well-thought out.”

“There is no excessive spending,” he said during a phone interview. “The nice thing is we keep 25 percent in reserves. We look far enough down the road to see if emergencies or unanticipated costs are coming.”

A copy of the proposed budget is included in the council packet. It may be viewed on the town’s website.

News Editor Wendy Miller can be contacted at 480-982-7799 and via e-mail at qcnews@newszap.com, or follow her on Twitter @WendyNewszap123.

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